Living Building Materials (LBMs)

Living building materials (LBMs) are construction materials that behave in a way resembling a living organism. Examples of LBMs include self-mending/self-replicating concretes and mycelium-based composites. LBMs offer sustainable alternatives to modern building materials.

Self-mending concrete is a mixture of sand, gelatin, growth enzymes, calcium chloride, and photosynthetic bacteria. As the mixture dries, the bacteria grow using the moisture in the gel, and – in time – the gel sets and becomes stronger. When cracks appear in the concrete, water that seeps in and the spores of bacteria germinate and feeds on the calcium lactate converting it to limestone as a filler.

The most obvious advantages of using self-healing concrete include that it has the potential to increase the lifespan of a structure while decreasing maintenance costs due to its self-mending properties. The biggest disadvantages of using self-healing concrete are higher up-front costs and the lack of building codes to help standardize its use.

Mycelium composites are an emerging class of cheap and environmentally sustainable materials that use natural fungal growth as a low energy bio-fabrication method to upcycle agricultural by-products and wastes into more sustainable alternatives to energy intensive synthetic construction materials (foam, timber, insulation, and plastics used in door cores, paneling, flooring, cabinetry, and other furnishings.

Advantages of mycelium composites include low cost, manufacturing simplicity, low thermal conductivity, high acoustic absorption, and fire safety properties that outperform traditional construction materials. Disadvantages include high water absorption and other undesirable material properties that relegated the use of mycelium composites as non- or semi-structural supplements to traditional materials.

Have you used LBMs in any of your projects? – tell us what you think in the comments!

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